Panvel-Uran coastal road to subsume 75 hectares of mangroves
The first phase of the project will connect Amra Marg to MTHL across 7.02 km, including a 1.2 km Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) link
Mumbai: The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) has sought the state forest department’s permission to divert 43.42 hectares of mangroves in Uran taluka of Raigad district to make way for an upcoming six-lane coastal road connecting Belpada wetland area to the port’s North Gate at Nhava Sheva.
The diversion of over 43 hectares of mangroves is in addition to 32.69 hectares of mangroves which have been proposed for diversion by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), for a coastal road between Amra Marg in Panvel and the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) junction at Nhava Sheva.
These roads are envisioned to provide better connectivity between Belapur, Kharghar and Nerul in the north and the JNPA special economic zone (SEZ) and upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) in the south.
Despite handing over the majority of mangroves on its property last month, JNPA -- India’s largest container terminal -- had retained 70 hectares of mangrove land (equal to seven Azad Maidans in size) which are now proposed to be used for road building and port expansion.
“Maharashtra’s City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) has planned a six-lane coastal road connecting Belpada... and Amra Marg at Panvel, which will also provide easy access to the proposed JNPA and International Airport in Navi Mumbai,” JNPA submitted to the forest department on March 29 this year, a copy of which is publicly available.
The first phase of the project will connect Amra Marg to MTHL across 7.02 km, including a 1.2 km Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) link. Phase two will join the MTHL to JNPT across 3.08 km. The project cost is pegged at ₹1,031 crore, with around ₹681 crore coming from CIDCO and ₹350 crore from JNPA.
“About 43.4272 hectares of mangrove forest area needs to be diverted to non-forest activities in the above-mentioned project area. To date, no non-forest activities have taken place in the aforementioned area and there has been no violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 and its guidelines. In view of the importance of the road connection and to cater to the demand of the logistics sector, it is essential to implement the said project in time,” the note adds.
Environmentalists, however, have strongly objected to this claim. “Belpada is a mangrove-rich wetland which has been completely buried over in the last two years. Despite our several complaints, the forest and environment departments are yet to initiate any action against JNPA for allowing this to happen under their supervision. The port authority should not be allowed to regularise these violations in the guise of seeking forest clearance,” said BN Kumar, director of Navi Mumbai-based environment NGO NatConnect Foundation, who has been tracking the disappearance of wetlands in Uran taluka.
Mumbai-based NGO Vanashakti had also highlighted the disappearance of wetlands in Uran in a letter to state authorities and the union environment ministry on May 15. “Please be informed that Belpada wetland is on its way to being eliminated. Truck parking facilities are being developed and are increasing day by day on debris and reclamation done into the wetland... Despite the former Chief Conservator of Forests (Mangrove Conservation Division) Mr N Vasudevan submitting a report in the Hon`ble High Court that these wetlands are being reclaimed steadily and need to be protected, nothing has been done till date,” wrote Stalin D, director of Vanashakti, claiming that close to 1,500 acres of wetlands in Uran taluka alone have disappeared in recent years.
Other areas which have seen unauthorised reclamation include Bhokadvira, Jasai and Sawarkhar wetlands.
Commenting on the need to develop roadways in the region, a CIDCO official said, seeking anonymity, “These coastal roads will also improve connectivity between South Mumbai and the proposed Navi Mumbai airport via the MTHL bridge. In the Ulwe area, service lanes are planned in addition to the six-lane carriageway so that nodal traffic can also benefit without disrupting the journeys of those travelling to and from the airport. Existing routes in the area along National Highway 4B and State Highway 54 will also be decongested as a result.”